Wednesday: The Good Samaritan, Part I
At the end of Luke 9, Jesus “set his face to go to Jerusalem,” where he will meet his
death. Today, we meet up with Jesus and his disciples shortly after that turn in the
narrative, and after the disciples have been sent out in pairs “to every town where
Jesus himself intended to go” (10:1).
• The disciples and “seventy others” are successful in their mission, and they
subdue the “spirits” that are holding the people captive.
• You might wonder to yourself what these spirits might be, whether then or now,
that are contrary to God’s will for people. Spirits of selfishness? Spirits of attraction
to material gain? Spirits of fearfulness?
And then the following story begins to unfold:
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to
inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? What do
you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your
heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind;
and your neighbor as yourself.” And Jesus said to him, “You have given the right
answer; do this, and you will live.” But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus,
“And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:25-29).
This story is Luke’s telling of an account that appears in Mark’s Gospel (Mark
10:17-22). In Mark’s version, the man (not a lawyer) turns sadly to leave, upon
hearing that he must sell what he owns, give the money to the poor, and then come
and follow Jesus. For his part, Jesus loves the man, but lets him go – or – loves him
enough to let him go when he is not ready to follow. The comparison of the two stories calls us to wonder just how costly love of the neighbor may be for a disciple of Jesus.
Both stories witness to the common first-century Jewish practice of questioning a
Rabbi about his teaching.
• Jesus’ answer to the original question, the double commandment to love God and
neighbor, is not at all unusual.
• It is what unfolds next that lets us see how Jesus’ teaching pushed the limits within 1st century Jewish culture, as it still pushes our limits today.
• It sounds as though the lawyer may be hoping that by carefully defining who his
neighbor is (people within one mile? two miles?) he won’t have to strain too hard
to love his neighbor as himself.
Questions for Reflection
• What might we have to give up (like the young man in Mark’s story), in order to
love our neighbor as ourself (as in Luke’s story)?
• Do you sometimes catch yourself trying to reduce God’s commandments to their
simplest possible demands? What would it take to push yourself to allow God’s
commandments to deepen or expand in yourself and in your practice? What
neighbor (relationship) of yours would require the most from you, if you were to
try to love him or her as you love yourself?
God of all, I want to be fully alive. Teach me how to love you and how to love my
neighbor, so that I may truly come into the fullness of my life, as you intended for
me from the beginning. Amen.